Posts in Book Lists
What We're Excited to Read This Fall

There’s about a two week transitional period here in the Pacific Northwest that sees us through the last heat wave of summer and into the inevitable, seemingly abrupt, turn to autumn. It’s a welcome time, as we’re so accustomed to our often mild weather and dressing in layers, plus one can only read so many fun beach novels before craving something different. At least, that’s the case for us. This time of year, as we slide back in to misty mornings, shorter days, and brilliantly colored trees, we find ourselves drawn to atmospheric campus novels, classics, fantasy, and usually a good door stop or two as we cozy in with warm blankets and tea.

After much debate and scouring of shelves, these are some of the many books we’re most looking forward to reading this fall.

*some links are affiliate, we deeply appreciate your support

20180922__RKR4105.jpg

Rikki

There are a few novels that I’ve simply been meaning to read until the weather shifted and the slow, dark prose was well-suited to the overall mood and atmosphere of the season. When you fully immerse yourself into the atmosphere of a novel, matching the weather, the seasonal food, the clothes, etc., can all be felt in a greater context. I’ve started most of these actually, seeing which ones I really wanted to commit to, and well, they all made the cut.

Michaela turned me on to Oscar Wilde a few years ago with The Importance of Being Earnest, and after needing a palate cleanser, I started The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve been making my way through this book this past month, and have found myself laughing out loud on so many occasions. It is a hysterical. While also craving something slow and intentional, Karl One Knausgaard’s Autumn was a no-brainer! One of the most charming stories of simple every day things that one may or may not ever reflect on as they go about their day, raise their children, meander through orchards, and watch the sun set.

Needing even more mood, I can’t resist Faulkner, whom I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. As I Lay Dying is the deeper, make-you-think type of novel I can easily get lost in on a rainy day. A perfect compliment to Faulkner is Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I’m excited to explore both author’s work.

I’m keeping the rest of my options open for campus novels and moody books, so if you have recommendations, feel free to send them my way! Speaking of recommendations, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon was recently recommended to us as a “hard to put down campus novel. I’m really looking forward to reading this! The reviews are quite controversial and all over the place, which is all the intrigue I need.

20180914__RKR3977.jpg

Michaela

The colder the weather gets, the more I crave fantasy, big tomes, and atmospheric reads. I seek this same mood every year, I know, but I can’t help it! Nothing goes better with a steaming mug of tea than richly drawn worlds and dark atmosphere.

Fantasy

For fantasy this fall I’m kind of running the gamut this season. I’m picking up Diane Setterfield’s (The Thirteenth Tale, anyone?) forthcoming novel Once Upon A River, which is a all myth and fairytale and mystery; you know, the good stuff. I’m also reading the third installment of Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few. If her past books are any indication, this one will be a warm cozy hug of a sci-fi novel and I can’t wait to just be wrapped in her magical world building and characters.

I’m also picking up two, big hefty plot-driven fantasy novels: The Lies of Locke Lamora, because I’ve been meaning to read it forever (and it is soooooo delightfully sassy and fun so far!), and Warbreaker for book club, which sounds like it’s basically going to be kickass princesses and magic and gods. Obviously I am here for it, plus Sanderson is another author I’ve been meaning to read.

Atmosphere

I’m mixing up my atmospheric books this year, and instead of going and hiding in The Secret History forever and ever, I’m looking to a few authors I trust to give me that moody ambiance I crave. Lief Enger (of Peace Like A River fame) has a new novel out October 2nd called Virgil Wander, and from what I’ve read of it so far, it is just exquisite. The plot is nearly irrelevant, it’s enough to just bask in Enger’s writing, but it revolves around a man, his life changing accident, and his relationships with the people in his small town.

Speaking of exquisite writing, I just finished reading Claire Fuller’s forthcoming title Bitter Orange, and was so blown away by the level of skill and atmosphere, I was immediately inspired to pick up her previous works Swimming Lessons and Our Endless, Numbered Days. Though the plots are all different, I’m hearing she has that moody undercurrent I love in all her books.

I’m also excited for The Essex Serpent, which has been on my TBR for a while thanks to everyone praising it’s atmospheric Victorian setting, spooky bits, and deep dives into the main character and her relationships. The last two novels I’m anticipating are Home Fire, which I’m sure you’ve seen absolutely everywhere thanks to it winning the women’s prize for fiction and getting long listed for the Man Booker, and Gentlemen and Players, which should fulfill my Secret History cravings quite nicely with it’s campus setting and murder-y vibes.

Doorstopper

Call me crazy, but I am head over heels in love with War and Peace. It’s famously enormous, of course, but whenever I pick it up I always, ALWAYS get sucked into it and end up reading for an hour—or three. I’m currently about 300 pages into it, and you can read a bit about why I decided to read it and how I chose the translation I’m reading right over here.

Also, maybe this will sound silly, but it’s really helped me to watch the mini series as I make my way through this behemoth. I’ve been watching an episode, reading up to where the episode cuts off, and then watching another, then reading, etc. It helps me to know where I’m going in the book and the show is just so deliciously well done; it’s been a great companion to the novel. I’m hoping to finish this one well before the year ends, so wish me luck!

What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Wrap Up | August 2018
20180831__RKR3571.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Michaela

I Believe in a Thing Called Love | Maurene Goo- A fellow kdrama fan recommended this to me, with fair warning that it was cotton candy level fluff, and she was right. Super fun to catch all the kdrama references, and had a cute, quick plot, and that was about it. Good fun if you need a light YA novel!

Social Creature | Tara Isabella Burton- Ugh. One of the worst books I've read this year, it was just trying wayyy tooooo hard. Trope filled and not particularly good, while also being just stuffed with useless shock-value things in an effort to be edgy. It was a vaguely interesting look at social media in society on a very specific level, but that's about it. Blah. Thank you to Doubleday for gifting us a complimentary review copy. 

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel- We got to read this a bit early thanks to Anne and Baker Books, and we are so glad we did! This essay collection spoke to my bookish heart. All of them were relatable, a couple were funny and warm, and some were seriously interesting. Like have you ever thought about what the author acknowledgments reveal about the author and the work? It's a quick read and will make you feel like someone really gets you and your bookworm-y ways.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before | Jenny Han- Yes, I gave into the hype! I decided I wanted to read the book before watching the movie on Netflix, and I'm not sorry about it. Basically this is a heartwarming rom com with a really relatable heroine. Reading about ladies kicking ass and being spunky is awesome, but it's also nice to see a lead who just loves her family and wants to chill and knit and read like most of us. An interesting shift, and the series is a fun one. My one complaint is that the narrator is supposedly sixteen, but seems very juvenile. 

Girl, With Guitar | Tracy Young- What a smart piece of YA, and with such a refreshing lack of romance! This was frankly a cut above the other YA I've read recently for it's wit, humor, and heart. Young has crafted a fierce, but entirely relatable narrator and her motley crew of friends and bandmates, who is out to win her town's Battle of the Bands. The plot was fun and engaging, and the characters were well developed and interesting, all backed by a solid message of empowerment and swathed in dry wit. Thanks so much to the author for the gift of a review copy. 

Bitter Orange | Claire Fuller-Hands down the best book I read this month, and one of the best of the year so far. I can't thank Tin House enough for sending us an early review copy, because holy crap. Bitter Orange is like if Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Du Maurier’s Rebecca had an eerily atmospheric, glittering book baby. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an atmospheric novel, and it was such a clever, clever twist on the unreliable narrator thing. It’s subtle and layered and builds so thoroughly and smoothly, and the ending just got completely under my skin. It is going to make such a perfect fall release, with it’s creepy vibes and sinister drama under it’s sunny facade. A stunningly written and complex mystery. Slow clap, Ms. Fuller, that was amazing.

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bu- I am decidedly not a crier, but this graphic memoir was so impactful it had me misty eyed at the end. The focus is on one family's immigration story from Viet Nam, but manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal history and relationship drama so elegantly and meaningfully. I loved this so much, I immediately bought myself a copy after returning it to the library. No question, this was one of the best books I've read this year. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Balli Kaur JaswalThank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I have to say this book surprised me; I definitely did not expect it to be as layered and well developed as it was, and found myself really enjoying the story. There is a lot packed in here about feminism, immigration, insular expat communities, the duality of community, the struggle between tradition and modernity, all brought out through a group of widows writing steamy stories. Just really unique and chock full of good stuff. 

Windhaven | George R.R. Martin + Lisa Tuttle- This was a graphic novel adaptation of the existing novel, and honestly I think some of the complexity and nuance were lost in translation. While the story was good, there were points where it felt jarring, and distinctly like you were missing something, and made it harder to follow than it should have been. Decent, but honestly I just want to go read the novel now and see what pieces were missing and experience the full extent of it's power. Thanks to Random House for the complimentary review copy!

What We Were Promised | Lucy Tan- I did not finish this one. I got a little over halfway and gave up on it. It simply wasn't strong enough to be such a character driven novel, and I found myself actively bored and frustrated with the writing, so it wasn't worth finishing for me. Thanks to Little Brown for gifting us a review copy. 

 

20180830__RKR3552.jpg

Rikki

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - I was really unsure about this story while reading it, but I loved Duras' writing. She has a beautiful and sparse prose that often had me rereading passages. The story took me off guard, even more so when I learned it was autobiographical, but I found her reflective format a perfect way to write a memoir. 

Listen, Slowly | Thanhha Lai - Adding to my diverse ya reading, I used one of Lai's books for my thesis project, and wanted to ensure I was familiar with her work. This is definitely a middle grade novel, but it was considerably well done. I didn't care for the tropes added in for the benefit of the main character to match her age, but otherwise, it was a great story of a young girl exploring her Vietnamese culture and learning about her family's history, all while getting over herself. 

Of Mice and Men | John Steinbeck - I can't believe it's taken me so long to read Of Mice and Men! I LOVED this story so much, and although it completely broke my heart, it was excellent! I never know what to say about Steinbeck's books, because they're so down to earth, but absolutely rich with detail, narrative, place, and solidly developed characters - I can scarcely articulate more than that.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | J.K. Rowling - I don't want to talk about it! Why Joanne?! WHY?!

Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury - I went into this with absolutely no expectations, except that it's a well-loved book that has stood the test of time. I'm quite exceptional at avoiding spoilers. I was blown away from the beginning, being instantly pulled into wondering "what is going to happen?!" It's a grim look at a potential future of life without literature (NOOOOO) and how this overwrought community navigates the curiosity and laws surrounding that.

I'd Rather Be Reading | Anne Bogel  - A complimentary review gift from Anne, such a treat! This book is a small collection of essays detailing different facets of a reader's life. It's like a warm hug from an understanding fellow reader who gets all the quirks, dilemmas, and up-too-late-now-i'm-grumpy-and-tired scenarios. I really enjoyed this quick read, mentions of my favorite books, and moments that struck right in the heart. 

The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui  - A multiculturally diverse YA graphic novel that kind of blew my mind. There is so much packed into this graphic novel; it's full of history, generational family building, and the overall story of Bui's (very interesting) life -- I was really impressed.

Circe | Madeline Miller - Our August read-along. I was slow reading this in the beginning, as this book is so far outside of my usual reading style, but I ended up really liking it. Miller did a brilliant job weaving mythology into a fictional recount of Circe's life. The story spanned millennia flawlessly and painted vivid pictures, all while handling maturity, motherhood, and finding independence so well, you couldn't help but resonate with the all-too-real moments. Truly impressed by this one.

Inside Out & Back Again | Thanhha Lai - I didn't love this book as much as Listen, Slowly, but it was a really good, strong example of the struggles immigrants (particularly children) can have when adjusting to a new life and culture. This is a great middle grade read I'll be passing off to my kids.

The Pearl | John Steinbeck - Where do I begin?! Ugly crying over your broken heart maybe. The one thing I've always known about this book, is that the ending is scarring and brutal. So I'll admit that while I enjoyed this like I do all of Steinbeck's novels, I stopped before the very end. I'm reimagining a happier ending. Sorry, I just couldn't do it. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Ballin Kaur Jaswal - Thank you Bad People Book Club for a complimentary copy of this book. I loved this story! It is so down-to-earth and real, with great character voices and dialogue throughout the story, along with a little mystery, intrigue, and cultural awareness. It can make a modest woman blush, but all the things women tend to fear saying out loud was spilled wide open. Round of applause.

What did you read and love this month?

Ready to Go Back to School? Campus Novels to Get You In The Mood
20180819__RKR2965.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

The Secret History | Donna Tartt

Pretty much the poster child mascot of every campus novel list ever, let's just start here and get it out of the way. This book is amazing, the hype is all true. It's ancient Greek myth, and snobby, elegant rich college kids, and murder, and friendship all just soaked in atmosphere. Seriously, the atmosphere in here is absolutely stunning; I've never read anything quite like it. It's set on a college campus in Vermont, and much of the action happens in classrooms and dorms, so you'll have your fill of all that collegiate goodness. 

 

If We Were Villains | M. L. Rio

If you loved the plot of The Secret History so much you can't wait to get your hands on another one, If We Were Villains is your best bet. Instead of the ancient Greeks, these characters are all actors and obsessed with Shakespeare. Same plot points of murder/friendship/rivalry though, and of course, it's set on a very exclusive private college campus.

 

A Separate Peace | John Knowles

This is one of those books I read in school and has really stuck with me for the last 15 years. It's set at an all boys boarding school in England during the early years of WWII, and centers on the friendship of two boys and an incident that changes their lives and relationship forever. Themes of adolescence, loss of innocence, and all the complexities and pressures of attending the boarding school abound. 

 

Black Chalk | Christopher J. Yates

In this story we have six friends attending Oxford who all play a game of dares amongst themselves. It starts out pretty innocent, but deepens as they raise the stakes and the consequences. This is obviously going to go south sometime, and to further complicate it, there is the looming presence of a shadowy secret society. It's fairly plot driven, but has a complex layered structure of unreliability. If you like unreliable narrators, this one takes it to the next level, possibly two or three levels up. 

 

20180819__RKR2967.jpg

Brideshead Revisited | Evelyn Waugh

One of my very favorite classics, the bulk of this novel centers on the main character's time at Oxford. Waugh is a gorgeous writer and recounts the relationship between two young men (one of whom is very rich, and very complicated) in the waning days of England's great houses. Warm and full of love and complex friendships, grandeur and loss, it's also above all utterly mired in deep, deep nostalgia. 

 

The Marriage Plot | Jeffrey Eugenides

Set in the early '80's, English major Madeline Hanna is writing her senior thesis on the plot device of marriage that drives some of the greatest novels of the 19th century. Cue a love triangle for Madeline, and the resulting fallout. Literary, character driven, and surprisingly deep, it explores whether the trope of the marriage plot is dead in the modern world, where marriage isn't the penultimate goal, and divorce is rampant. 

 

This Side of Paradise | F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is actually Fitzgerald's very first novel, and while it isn't as tightly woven as some of his later works (ahem, Gatsby), it's still full of his signature magic. The story centers on Amory Blaine, a student at Princeton, and explores youth and love that is tainted by extravagance, greed, and status. It's supposedly semi-autobiographical and representative of the morality and lives of "the lost generation", which completely fascinates me. 

 

Stoner | John Williams

Seriously, this novel is perfect. Our hero is a professor of literature at the University of Missouri, with a generally lackluster (grim, maybe?) home life, and a fairly colorful one on campus. He is a man with a lot of integrity, a deep love of literature, and who is an accomplished scholar. The novel gives great details on the petty machinations, vicious office politics, and behind the scenes back-stabbings in the dark halls of academia if that's your thing!

The Raven Boys | Maggie Stiefvater

One of the more popular YA fantasy series of the past few years, featuring a private school for rich boys, ghosts, magic, prophecies, friendship, and of course a love story. It's shockingly atmospheric, has great characters, and of course is a bit different than your average campus novel.

20180819__RKR2968.jpg

A Prayer for Owen Meany | John Irving

Much of this book revolves around the friendship of Owen and John, and much of their friendship develops through their school years and their attendance together at Gravesend Academy. This is much more than a campus novel though, and is basically a basket of emotions, and layers, and stellar writing. This is one seriously beloved novel, and comes highly recommended by pretty much the entire world. 

 

Possession | A.S. Byatt

This won the Man Booker back in 1990 and for good reason. The two main characters are both academics researching two different Victorian poets when they realize (after much literary sleuthing) that the poets they are researching had an affair with one another. Byatt attacks the insular world of academia, while crafting an amazing love story that is equal parts passion and anguish. This is one of those deeply melancholy, atmospheric novels that is full of puzzles and brilliance, and is tailor made for those who love the world of academia. 

 

Fangirl | Rainbow Rowell

On a lighter note, Fangirl is about Cath's adjustment to college life without her twin glued to her side, and growing into her authorship of fanfiction based on the Simon Snow (Harry Potter) novels. She's a little obsessed with the fandom (aren't we all) and this book is such a great look at fandom and fanfic culture, as well as what it's like to grow into yourself that first year away from home. I loved it. 

 

Never Let Me Go | Kazuo Ishiguro

The less said about the plot of this novel the better. Do yourself a favor and don't google it! What I will say is that Ishiguro is a profoundly talented writer, and the book is largely set at a boarding school in the English countryside. It's a literary mystery, an ethical critique, a love story, and a coming of age novel all rolled into one fascinating package. 

20180819__RKR2966.jpg

Do you have a favorite campus novel??

Foreign Authors and Their Most Loved Books
20180728__RKR2280.jpg

This past year of studying diversity and multiculturalism in literature, has completely reshaped my reading life. Everything seems to take on a deeper context than I've ever known before, thus I'm craving new and different things. Thankfully, that's where the beauty of Bookstagram comes in.

One afternoon, I was looking up a writer whose book I recently read. As I was scrolling through her feed, I stumbled upon a post about Marguerite Duras. I had never heard of her before, so I immediately took to the web to find out who she was and what she had written. As it happened, my library had her memoir, The Lover, so I read it immediately. 

I've read so many diverse novels (many young adult) this past year from the courses I was taking. Books that had a centralized theme on social classes, race, culture, mental illness, sexuality, all of which included writers from different backgrounds and regions as well. My desire for this type of literature has grown immensely. So I reached out on Instagram and asked for your favorite foreign authors and received great recommendations!

booksonthego_003.jpg

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - French - This can be a difficult story for some to read if the age gap bothers you, but being autobiographical, I find I am much less critical of the content, and for what it was, she wrote it well. Despite that, her prose is sparse, beautiful, and all told in retrospect of a particular time in her life. I fully appreciate her writing and look forward to exploring more of her work.

Neapolitan Novels | Elena Ferrante - Italian - A much loved series of Ferrante's, her books are packed with a depth and richness unmatched by others. Navigating two women's lives, and their friendship, her thought-provoking quartet is so well loved.

The Eyre Affair | Jasper Fforde - British - A unique, on-going series from Great Britain, Frorde uses time travel, suspense, and often humorous prose to pull characters from some of the best loved and well known literature, and throw them into outlandish scenes and stories.

Little Jewel | Patrick Modiano - French - An intriguing mystery of a young girl in Paris who thinks she sees her long lost mother. On a quest to remember the past, Modiano masterfully creates atmosphere, using the city as a main focal point of the story, to aid his unreliable narrator and unique plot.

Les Miserables | Victor Hugo - French - A timeless book that moves readers through its strong prose, redemption, and fight between good and evil. Set in 19th century France, there is a strong undertone of political injustice that Hugo was critical of.

The Heart | Maylis de Kerangal - French - A truly heart wrenching story of love, loss, and survival. A quick and emotional read that has surprised many with its literary merit.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Milan Kundera - Czech - Set in Prague, this is a tale of two couples during the Soviet occupation in the '60s. Described as rich, beautiful, complex, and intellectual, all with a metaphorical philosophical twist using the characters and loose plot.

The Idiot | Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Russian - A unique tale of a man that is genuinely innocent in nature, ends caught up in a love triangle and other tense societal situations he has to navigate. It's remarkable and complex, often the way Russian literature is.

Resurrection | Leo Tolstoy - Russian - A look at the darker emotions of guilt, anger, and social injustice, Resurrection is about a man on jury to convict a woman he was involved with. Now determined to right his wrongs, he fights to appeal her.

The Red and the Black | Roger Gard Stendhal - French - Hailed as having one of the most intriguing characters in European literature, this novel navigates a man attempting to be better than where he came from, but then commits a terrible crime. Filled with wit and satire, there is also an abundance of subtext on France after the Battle of Waterloo, which highlights important elements that is said one should research if you're struggling to find this book interesting.

Kafka on the Shore | Haruki Murakami - Japanese - A young and old man drawn together in a clever story that is as loved as it is hated. I've seen it written that you often have to read certain books of Murakami's before reading others, to better understand the context, so be sure to do your research. His bizarre storylines are woven with fantastical imagery and insight, full of metaphors and are fully unconventional.

A Man Called Ove, Beartown | Fredrik Backman - Swedish - The first is a charming, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of a man throughout his life leading to the present moment in which we find ourselves converging with new and different characters as they interact with the main character. You'll be hating and loving him with such intensity, you won't be able to put the book down. The latter is a long, layered, rich story of a town navigating through their shared love of hockey as something tragic happens and threatens their unique structure holding everyone and everything together.

The Shadow of the Wind | Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Spanish - Post war in Barcelona, a secret book society, and vanishing books, this book is woven with family, grief, and deep dark secrets. Described as having a complicated plot but with some of the best loved characters in literature.

Inkheart | Cornelia Funke - German - When books actually come to life. A man reading to his daughter unleashes a villain that is after his special gift, then leads you on a tale of conquering evil.

_RKR3324.jpg

Note on translations: Most of these books need to be thoughtfully selected with the translator in mind. Each version will provide a unique and different reading experience. You can read a post we wrote on how to do that and the importance of it right HERE.

Best Books For Foodies & Lovers of Food Writing
foodiebooks_001.jpg

For a peek into the kitchen

Kitchen Confidential | Anthony Bourdain- This is pretty much a classic of the genre, and was my personal gateway drug. Bourdain chronicles his life in the kitchen and doesn't hesitate to dish on the sex, drugs, gratuitous cursing, haute cuisine, general atmosphere and culture of the profession. I really enjoyed his honest peek behind the curtain and it shows off exactly what it was like to work in the kitchen before the age of celebrity chefs. 

The Making of a Chef | Michael Ruhlman- Ruhlman decides to engage in a bit of stunt journalism and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America to look at what the process of becoming a chef is really like. This book is full of detailed information about the processes of cooking, the skills he learned, and the chefs he met. It was intimate and fascinating. 

Delancey | Molly Wizenberg-  When her husband decides to open a pizza restaurant in Seattle, Wizenberg is less than thrilled. However, she writes about the process of recipe developing, what it takes to open a restaurant, and then what it's like to actually work in it in a way that is so visceral and human. She is a superb writer, and this was the perfect look at what the journey of opening a restaurant entails from a very personal point of view. 

Food and the City | Ina Yalof- This one looks at what's happening behind the scenes in the world of food in New York City. It's almost like short stories; every chapter reads like a conversation with someone in the industry, and is chock full of great storytelling and interesting tidbits. If you crave an insiders look at the industry as a whole (it runs the gamut from food cart vendors and dishwashers, to fancy chef people), this is the book for you. 

foodiebooks_002.jpg

For a look at life as a celebrity chef

Yes, Chef | Marcus Samuelsson- Samuelsson has led a really interesting life, and he discusses his background, his choices, and the things that inspired him to become a chef. If you're interested in what the road to modern celebrity chef status looks like, this is your book. 

My Life In France | Julia Child- We both really, really loved Child's memoir about her life and how she got her start in cooking while living in Paris with her husband. She is shockingly warm and funny, and this book was a complete delight to read. She is easily one of the most likable narrators I've ever read, and the world of post WWII Paris is richly drawn. If you're at all interested in food writing, this is a must. 

Coming to My Senses | Alice Waters- Ultra famous chef Alice Waters pens a memoir about what it was like during the tumultuous 1960's and 1970's, the opening up her passion project of a restaurant, the food counter-culture she was a part of, and how it ended up changing the food world forever. This book is very much about her life, and her life was very much about Chez Panisse, so this one is particularly interesting to read.

The Devil in the Kitchen | Marco Pierre White- White is like the bad boy rocker of the celebrity chef world, and his memoir proves he's worthy of his reputation. He honestly has a great sense of humor, and name drops in the best ways, so this one is extra fun to read. Like most memoirs, it recounts his early years and his rise to fame, but he's so unusual and fascinating, this book is far from ordinary. 

32 Yolks | Eric Ripert- On the lighter end, Ripert focuses on how his tumultuous childhood shaped his love of food, his stint in culinary school, what it was like to work in some seriously world famous restaurants, his various failings and missteps, and more. What sets this memoir apart from the pack is how ridiculously wonderfully he describes food, and how amusing his anecdotes are. That, and the entire book is set before he gets ultra famous, which was refreshing.

foodiebooks_003.jpg
foodiebooks_004.jpg

 

For a taste of what it's like to be in a world class restaurant

Garlic and Sapphires | Ruth Reichl- If you ever wanted to know what life is like for a food critic, pick this up immediately. Reichl excels at describing food, and really brings the reader with her into the highfalutin restaurants she critiques for the New York Times, and the hole in the wall places she frequents for herself. She also makes you keenly aware of all the things that make a great restaurant---and it's not just the food. 

The Sweet Life in Paris | David Lebovitz- Food + Paris...what's not to love? Lebovitz moves to Paris after decades of dreaming about it, and chronicles his culture shock in all it's foodie glory. He's funny and warm, and his adventures around Paris and Parisian culture are just fun. Plus, he is, of course, a world class pastry chef and cookbook author, so the city is especially interesting through his eyes.

The Tummy Trilogy | Calvin Trillin- This was written in the 1970's, but Trillin basically gets paid to traipse around the country trying food everywhere he goes. Dream life, right? He's another author that writes these essays with a lot of warmth and humor as he eats his way across the US. Hardcore foodies will recognize familiar landmark restaurants and pine for the food scenes of decades ago. 

_RKR8877.jpg

If the sommelier is your favorite person in a restaurant

Cork Dork | Bianca Bosker- I loveeeeeed this book about wine. Instead of being stuffy and pretentious, Bosker is ridiculously relatable as she takes a deep dive into the world of wine and the people who live for it. I learned so much, not only about how to taste and appreciate wine, but about the real culture in that world underneath it's prim exterior. I mean, at one point she is at a high class wine event that devolves into popping thousands of dollars of booze and group singalongs of drinking songs. It's seriously great. 

 

For inspiration in your own kitchen

My Kitchen Year | Ruth Reichl- This cookbook is half recipes, half memoir, largely about the impact of food on Reichl's life the year following the demise of Gourmet, the food magazine she headed for many years. A good mix of accessible and aspirational, she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. She also does a wonderful job of capturing the seasons and cooking seasonally, if you've been (like me) trying to get better at that. Bonus: we did a dinner party for this book!

Here Let Us Feast | M.F.K. Fisher- This was recently reprinted by Counterpoint Press who kindly gifted us a review copy and it's basically a giant toast to the pleasures of food. Fisher is the grandmother of food writing, and this is a collection of  lighthearted essays that capture a wide variety of food writing. In it, she references and takes excerpts from books, famous chefs of times long past, movie stars, ancient writings, Shakespeare, and more.. Read this is you just plain want to get excited about food. 

 

foodiebooks_005.jpg

 

If fun foodie fiction is more your style

Sweetbitter | Stephanie Danler- A book that centers on a young woman working in a restaurant in NYC? Yes, please. If you're enamored with restaurant/wine/food life and books that revolve around that stuff, this is for you.  I'm a sucker for Danler's beautiful, lush, heavy writing style, and Tess's breathless, relentless pursuit of that unidentifiable something more.

Garden Spells | Sarah Addison Allen- This one is pure, warm, lighthearted fun. Enchanted apple trees,  family secrets, romance, and a caterer named Claire who can cook emotions into food, so that when it's eaten you feel what she infused into it. I love this book, it's one of my favorite comfort reads, and is just chock full of magical food.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake | Aimee Bender- Fun useless fact: this was the very first e-book I ever read, way back in like 2008! In it, nine year old Rose discovers she has the ability to taste the emotions of whoever made the food she eats. This knowledge gives her unexpected insight into the deeper workings of her family and the complex dynamics swirling beneath the surface. Ultimately, it uses food as a vehicle to explore emotions, and the impactful, complicated role they play in our lives.

The Mistress of Spices | Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni- A classic of the magical realism genre, this novel follows an immortal named Tilo who has a special gift with spices. Magic powers, surprise romance, and heavy decisions make this a fun and memorable read. 

 

BONUS: foodie documentaries

Chef's Table- The production value of this docu-series is unreal. Each episodes highlights a different chef and they do sincerely gorgeous filming, interviewing, and showcasing of that chef's story, food philosophy, and their restaurant. You get ridiculously good behind the scenes looks at famous restaurants and the genius of these people. I've never seen anything live up to the standard this series has set. Just go watch it. 

Somm- Hands down my favorite wine documentary, this is similar to Cork Dork. It follows 3 sommelier candidates as they prepare for and take the test to become certified wine masters. It's dramatic and human and fulllll of wine information.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi- Sushi lovers, if you ever wanted the most in depth look at the art of sushi, this is your film. This family takes their restaurant and the making of sushi seriously. Plus, I learned so much about the process and etiquette of eating sushi.

A Chef's Life- I've heard great things about this series, and it's next on my watch list! It looks like its part documentary, part cooking show as it follows one family and their restaurant. It seems to have a focus on southern storytelling and has won all sorts of accolades. 

Check out Anthony Bourdain's pet project that looks similar to Chef's Table, and this great list of food documentaries on Netflix, if you need more!

 

What are your favorite foodie books or shows? I'm always on the hunt for more!

 

 

Wrap Up | July 2018
Michaelasjulybooks.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Michaela

Tin Man | Sarah Winman- We received this in our complimentary Deep Readers Club box for May, and the theme was "Contentment" so I was just not expecting this book to be what it was...and what it was was a grief novel. I can absolutely see why people say this book is warm, and it does do a decent amount with the story for it's short page count, but for me it lacked enough depth to truly stand out. On the plus side, it has that melancholy, bittersweet tone I tend to be drawn to, but it wasn't enough to save it. Pick this up if you want to read a book that's like if Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance and The Heart's Invisible Furies had a grief novel baby.

Empty Set | Veronica Gerber Bicecci- We were gifted this by Coffee House Press a few months ago, and I finally picked it up! It's such an interesting blend of visual and language arts, which I was not at all expecting. A flip through it's pages will reveal diagrams that connect marvelously to the words on the page, illustrating the webs of relationships and ideas being expressed. This book is focused on exploring emptiness in the form of both literal physical and figurative emotional space. It's style is highly experimental, but effective, and I've never read anything quite like it. I admit it won't go down as a favorite, but I'm glad to have read it, and the uniqueness will stay with me for a long time. If you're looking for a really interesting, outside of the box take on a novel about relationships, this could be for you. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream | William Shakespeare- A re-read of my favorite Shakespeare play! Just as fun and rom-com-y as I remembered, and I completely love the imagery in this, so expect a dinner party soon.

Norwegian Wood | Haruki Murakami- Wow. I expected to love this one, and really did not. I'm actually left feeling kind of gross about the whole thing. Where do I start? Trite, unlikable characters (and I am usually all about unlikeable characters), a narrator that was passive and dull, but who was supposed to be deep, lots of random sex that didn't do enough for the plot to justify the focus on it, pedestrian philosophy presented as something with gravitas, stale, overdone, heavy handed metaphors, and an oddly repetitive storyline. It was clearly heavily influenced by Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited, but was a much, much less brilliant version. It just didn't do it for me. HOWEVER. I do see potential in Murakami as a writer, he paints gorgeous scenes and I can see maybe liking one of his more fantastical works. We will see. 

Northwood | Maryse Meijer- First off, no question, it was ABSORBING. The book uses really, really unique formatting, but fair warning: the story it tells is intense and dark. It puts Fifty Shades of Grey to shame, and trigger warnings abound. The prose jumps between long stream of consciousness paragraphs, to experimental poetry, to more standard formatting of narration in order to present a clear storyline. It follows a woman who goes and lives in a cabin in the woods for a year, her relationship with a man she meets there, and the aftermath. The different formats and writing styles genuinely enhance the story and the intensity of it rather than being confusing or disjointed, and I especially loved how bits of standard fairytales are mixed into the twisted tale. The shock value in this one is high, but a lot of the emotions in here are surprisingly relatable and universal. Thanks to Catapult for providing a complimentary early copy of this one!

Convenience Store Woman | Sayaka Murata- Unexpected, insightful, and with a little edge to it, this one is a short, quirky read that’s full of great observations about the physical world, society, and emotion. I love when books are tightly written, and this one neatly packs a whole lot into it’s 170 pages. In the end it’s about the pressure to conform, but there is so much more inside this little world of a book. Definitely recommend. Thanks to Grove Atlantic for the complimentary review copy.

The Hour of Daydreams | Renee Macalino Rutledge  - This is a reimagining of a Filipino folktale about a man who falls in love with a Star Maiden, but manages to be a much deeper exploration of love, relationships, and identity. I really enjoyed how layered this one was, and though the prose was a little dense, it was beautiful. Rutledge does a wonderful job weaving myth and fantasy into the story of an everyday couple, who maybe aren't so ordinary. If you like fairytale retellings, and don't mind some density, this could be for you. Especially recommended for fans of the Snow Child. Thanks to Forest Avenue Press for the complimentary review copy.

Circe | Madeline Miller- Easily my favorite book this month, Circe was absolutely lovely. Prose that skims along, but is beautiful enough to warrant re-reading sentences, a lot of plot without being confusing or tangential, and overarching themes of quiet strength and feminism. There are lots of familiar myths, legends, gods and goddesses in here all reworked from a new perspective; I did a lot of Googling for a refresher on some of these characters. I've seen some criticisms of Circe not being flashy enough with her powers, or not standing up for herself enough, but I think the point of this book was that she wasn't interested in flashy heroics, she defied the gods quietly and only to serve herself. So much of this book is focused on the strength of women in so many different ways, and I thought it was very well done. 

 

Rikkisjulybooks.jpg

Rikki

The Astonishing Color of After | Emily X.R. PanI really loved this book. Pan took a difficult topic/event and turned it into a creative and colorful story with a lyrical tone that shows the innermost side of working through grief as well as the power of friendship and family. It's beautifully done and I loved every minute of it.

Cannery Row | John SteinbeckAh, to be in Steinbeck's world again was purely delightful. I truly love his fluid writing and effortlessly descriptive atmosphere that takes me through interesting narrative interwoven with descriptive scenes. While reading, I'm equal parts taking my time to enjoy it and can't put it down. I could read Steinbeck forever. 

Growing a Farmer | Kurt Timmermeister A local foodie and entrepreneur once owned a bakery in our beloved Seattle, followed by a restaurant. Decades later and he's now a full-fledged farmer on a local island, a mere fifteen minutes away from our home. While this isn't a telling or gripping memoir, it was fun to fall into his organic, dreamy, and novice shift to becoming a farmer. As a gardener and small homesteader, stories like this hold a lot of appeal for me.

The Girl in the Garden | Melanie WallaceA long awaited read, that was not exactly what I was expecting. It was a curious, character-driven story, written in long flowing detail. Thankfully, I was in the right mood for this style of book: patient. It was quite good overall, but by the very last page as the story wrapped itself up, what I expected to happen turned into a controversially morbid ending. 

The Power of Habit | Charles Duhigg I soaked up this book like a sponge! It's fascinating to learn how our brains work, and even more so, what makes us do the things we do.  Having studied and ran my own business for so many years, marketing and learning to lure people in, was a big part of my regular work routine. This book dove all in, in a really understandable way, as to how companies and people have done that for for over a century for all sorts of reasons. If you have any inclination to this sort of thing, I highly recommend picking it up. I'm ordering a copy to annotate and use as a reference right now.

Northwood | Maryse MeijerThis book. Oh my god. I loved it's unique, (partially) abstract-written format, poetry, and creativity. BUT, the storyline details this woman's autobiographical account as a nymphomaniac, off-and-on addict, and an affair with a married man she could never quite get over, even after she got married. Aside from the crass absurdities in her behavior, I liked the concept, but even then it was dark and disturbing.

Hillbilly Elegy | J.D. Vance - A last minute quick read for the month, this was another not-what-I-was-expecting book. A story brought together by vignettes of J.D.'s life and the culture surrounding him as he grew up in the South as a self proclaimed hillbilly. J.D. draws from societal facts that examine the life of his deep-South demographic, which I found fascinating. Really glad I read this.

 

What did you read and love this month?

Summer Books + Cocktails 2018
20180709__RKR1601.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support. Some of these books were gifted to us by the publisher.

With summer in full swing, we're finding we just want to be outside with our books, ice cold drink in hand. Can you blame us? We rounded up a few of the books we've been loving lately and paired them with some drinks that match them perfectly. Got a cocktail shaker handy? Let's do this!

P.S. Check out last year's summer books , book flights, and summer cocktails!

 

You Think It, I'll Say It | Curtis Sittenfeld

20180510__RKR8301.jpg
20180510__RKR8291.jpg
20180510__RKR8287.jpg

Timely and pitch perfect, this short story collection explores the intimate corners of people's lives in a way that is nuanced and relatable. A trendy wine mixed with a jumble of flavors that meld together perfectly? Sounds like the perfect alcoholic embodiment of this book!

 

Rosé Sangria

  • 1 bottle of dry rosé wine
  • .5 cup brandy
  • .5 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 1 cup melon cubes
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced

Add all the fruit to the bottom of the pitcher. Top with liquors and club soda. Stir, then refrigerate at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend. Serve in wine glasses with ice. 

 

Social Creature | Tara Burton

20180510__RKR8307.jpg
20180709__RKR1612.jpg

Social Creature is one of summer's hottest thrillers and calls for a cocktail that is as sophisticated and trendy as Louise wants to be. We think a classic daiquiri fits perfectly with this novel and could easily be Louise's go-to bar order when she isn't quaffing free champagne. When served in elegant stemware this is timeless sophistication with a touch of glamour; it's not the strawberry pink slushy monstrosity you're imagining, but a drink that is simple, elegant, and not particularly sweet.

 

Daiquiri

  • Crushed Ice
  • 2 oz light rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup

Put the ice in a cocktail shaker, add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream | William Shakespeare

20180709__RKR1609.jpg
20180709__RKR1606.jpg
20180709__RKR1608.jpg

Mortals and fairies, a summer night, an enchanted forest, star-crossed lovers, beauty, love potions, magic flowers, and happy endings all around make this whimsical play one of my favorites. It's the perfect fantastical story to read under the stars on a warm summer evening. Cocktails for this book should be herby, fizzy, and fun: we recommend a rosemary gin fizz.

 

Rosemary Gin Fizz

Rosemary Simple Syrup

  • .5 cup sugar
  • .5 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary

Combine in a saucepan and heat over medium until sugar completely dissolves while muddling rosemary. Let cool. 

Gin Fizz

  • .25 cup gin
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • .25 cup seltzer

Combine gin, citrus juices, and 2 tablespoons simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a rocks glass over ice and top with seltzer. Garnish with a rosemary sprig if desired. 

 

Brideshead Revisited | Evelyn Waugh

20180709__RKR1583.jpg
20180709__RKR1579.jpg
20180709__RKR1581.jpg

Waugh is a gorgeous writer and recounts the relationship between two young men (one of whom is very rich, and very complicated) in the waning days of England's great houses. The book takes you from Oxford, to the English countryside, through Venice, on cruise ships to New York, to Morocco, and back into the "present day" where Charles, our narrator, is a Captain in the British army. Warm, nostalgic, and full of art, love, complicated friendships, grandeur and loss; it's just gossipy and opulent enough, but grounded with heavier themes. A classic Gin and Tonic is the perfect pairing; stiff and simple, yet luxurious.

 

Gin + Tonic

  • 2 oz gin
  • 3 oz good tonic water
  • 1/2 a lime, juiced

Add all ingredients to a highball glass with ice. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge. 

 

Circe | Madeline Miller

20180709__RKR1603.jpg
20180709__RKR1585.jpg
20180709__RKR1596.jpg

Circe is a reimagining of the classic Greek myth, so we chose a cocktail that incorporates classic Greek flavors and is as yellow as Circe's famous eyes. Honestly, it tastes like a tasty, alcoholic falafel. Something about the herbs and all the botanicals in the gin just mix up nicely together, and give a really mediterranean feel. I guarantee this drink will be on repeat this summer around here! 

 

Cucumber Mint Gimlet

  • slices of cucumber
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1.5 tsp simple syrup
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1.5 oz gin

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint, cucumber, and simple syrup. Fill shaker with ice, then add lime juice and gin. Shake, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with mint. 

 

Everything Here is beautiful | Mira Lee

badpeoplebookclub_002.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_005.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_007.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_011.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_009.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_012.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_014.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_015.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_017.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_019.jpg
badpeoplebookclub_022.jpg

We were recently lucky enough to be sent a complimentary box from Bad People Book Club to test out! They design a cocktail to pair with a book and send you both the book and the ingredients (minus the alcohol) with a handy recipe card. We can 100% get behind their mission to encourage a chill night with friends discussing books with a cocktail to match.

The book we got was Everything Here is Beautiful, and the cocktail has some color changing wizardry involved to reflect one of the main character's shifting personality due to mental illness. Pretty cool, right? This was definitely one of the more inventive cocktails we've ever made ourselves, and it was super smooth and balanced with interesting flavors and not too much sweetness. Thanks again, Bad People Book Club!

 

Do you have a favorite drink you like to mix up in the summer? Or a great idea for a cocktail + book pairing?

We'd love to hear!

 

 

 

 

Wrap Up | June 2018
20180628__RKR0933.jpg

Michaela

A Closed and Common Orbit | Becky Chambers- Ahhhh it feels so good to be back enveloped in Chamber's warm, delightful worlds. Her novels are the absolute best place to put my brain; they're just so comfortable. I don't know how she does it, but I'm so so glad that she does. She has the same knack that JK Rowling does for imbuing her world with a lot of interesting detail without beating you over the head with lengthy descriptions. It's magic, and I can't recommend her books enough. This one was a very different plot than The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, though no less powerful. Frankly I did enjoy Long Way's plot a bit better, but the plot is sort of beside the point with these books. Regardless, I can't waaaiiitttt to read the third one this summer!

Amulet | Kazu Kibuishi- This is a middle grade graphic novel, and while I like a lot of those, this one was a bit too straightforward, albeit beautiful! If you have a kid at the right age, I could see them loving this, but it wasn't something I'm particularly interested in continuing. 

Lumberjanes | Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters- This was pretty much like an episode of Adventure Time, but with badass lady friends. Hilarious and absurd, it definitely kept me laughing.

Eeeee Eee Eeee | Tao Lin- I read this at my brother's request (it's a favorite of his) and while I understood what it was doing, and it did it well, it was not for me. This falls under Auden's category of "I can see this is good, but I don't like it". If you want to bend your brain a little and put it in a weirdly specific mood, try it out. I do see why my brother specifically loves it, so it was a worthwhile read in that sense. One of the coolest things about a reader's favorite books is you see so much of them reflected in what they love. 

Less | Andrew Greer- Like everyone else, I read this because it won a Pulitzer. I wasn't sure what to expect, and honestly my first thought was "I hope this isn't a pretentious version of Eat, Pray Love", but what I found was warm and clever, with writing that felt effortless, but was playful and funny and layered. The love story in this was really unique and well done, and THAT ENDING. Ugh so lovely; I completely understand why this was Pulitzer worthy. 

Swimmer Among the Stars | Kanishk Tharoor- This collection sort of blew my mind. It took me a long time to finish because I would read a story and then sit and savor it for a while, sometimes for days, before moving on to another. I really loved the writing, and every story has at least one really thought provoking element or twist. A couple of these completely took my breath away, sometimes in the very last sentence. Worthwhile if you're in the mood for some beautiful, but heavier short stories. 

DNF: The Merry Spinster. Thoroughly mediocre in every way. I'm on a mission to not read forgettable books, and this just wasn't worth it for me. 

20180629__RKR0974.jpg

Rikki

Homegoing | Yaa GyasiThis book was AMAZING. One of the most powerful, timeless, incredible pieces of literature I've had the pleasure of reading. Spanning generations of two families from Africa to America and back, and the harsh reality and truth of African culture and life in the 19th century to 20th, this book is sweeping, emotional, and yet, you cannot turn away. During an interview, Gyasi said she had visited Ghana and decided to tell an untold story that didn't have faces and names, and she felt compelled to tell a version of their story.

This One Summer | Mariko and Jillian TamakiFor book club this month and one of M's favorite graphic novels, I really enjoyed this shift in what I was reading and explore something different. The artwork is incredible and I really loved "figuring out" a relatively heavy story between words and images. And I say "figuring out," because it takes equal parts visual attention to the artwork as well as what you're reading to get a full, rounded perception of the story.

Meet the Frugalwoods | Elizabeth Willard ThamesAn impulsive read I was sure I'd skim through, but I actually enjoyed it from cover to cover. It's a bold, yet inspiring reminder to live life within your means and how to cut down on useless material things. The older I get, the more I appreciate things like this. Their family is on Instagram and so fun to see their story come to life through photos of life on the farm.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Mary Ann Schaffer - A reread for me, because I am so anxious and excited to see the movie! I still love it as much as the first time I read it. One of my all time favorites.

Beartown | Fredrik BackmanI hadn't gotten to fully read all of Beartown before, because library due dates had this book in constant rotation. I finally took my time on each and every page, and this book is so good. Backman's writing is phenomenal, the story is second to that, and worth the time to slowly work through, appreciating all of his words and layers of creativity.

The Wonder | Emma DonoghueI was SO curious about this book, and finally read it through. It was painfully slow for me, a constant build to the mystery of the story, which is revealed at the TAIL END of the book. It is well written and detailed, but kind of weird. I kept wondering how on earth this story had formulated for the author, being so packed with minuscule details.

Spin the Golden Light Bulb | Jackie YeagerA buddy read with my oldest, it took me a while to get through because I kept pushing it down the pile. It's a fun, creative story that is solidly for middle grade kids. It's a futuristic, yet relatable, story of five kids competing in an invention contest to get into a sought-after school. My kid loved it and it was great to talk about, so that's a win for me.

The Help | Kathryn StockettWhat a great story! I am so happy to have finally read this. It's a courageous and honestly bold portrayal of life in the south in the '60s. It's not easy for those who might be sensitive to racism during that time. Yet, it's well done. I researched the background of this book and was surprised to learn that Stockett actually took inspiration for the main help from a real life maid in her family, and was sued for not respecting her anonymity. How ironic.

Historical Fiction Books That AREN'T About WWII
20180627__RKR0833.jpg

*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

I am a huge historical fiction and non-fiction fan. Like, I could read this one genre every day for the rest of my life and never feel as if I'm missing out on anything. I love to read, I love a good narrative, and I love to learn. So it just makes sense. As it would happen, the most common historical fiction to to be found out there, revolves around World War II. It's a heavy, well-explored topic that can never really be overdone, at least in my opinion (Michaela, on the other hand, hates it). But, I really love variety too, so I reached out to our Bookstagram friends and asked what else they knew about. I received an excellent feedback and compiled this list for your reading pleasure.

The Cove | Ron Rash

The Welsh Prince Trilogy | Sharon Kay Penman

The Franciscan Conspiracy | John Richard Sack

Shadow of a Century | Jean Grainger

I Am Livia | Phyllis T. Smith

The Glassblower | Petra Durst-Benning

Bohemian Gospel | Dana Chamblee Carpenter

The Five | Hallie Rubenhold

Ahab's Wife | Sena Jeter Naslund

Are there any others you'd add to this list? Bonus points for middle grade or young adult I can buddy read with my kids.

The Highly Anticipated Sequel to Beartown, Us Against You
booksoutside.jpg

I read A Man Called Ove a few years ago. I was down to the final hundred pages or so and couldn't put it down. I told my husband to take over dinner, I had to finish my book. Since then I've read all of Backman's novellas and a few of his other novels. Then, I read Beartown and did the exact same thing. I've never been so powerfully immersed in 400 pages in my life.

The thing with Backman, is that he has this magical, yet incredibly real way of writing stories that feel as if they're completely alive. I live for stories like this. Writing like his is the definition of "books that make you feel something." The atmosphere is less about place and more about the people, but it's beyond invoking. He writes sentences that start in one part the story and circle back around, and you'll find yourself re-reading them and just wondering how. How can all this come from one person? How did this story come to you? I find myself yearning to know everything, how it all came to be. Then I want to read it again!

For people who have read Ove and other Backman novels up to Beartown, I've heard don't like Beartown (you can read the description here). Spoiler alert: it's not like his other books. You can't finish Ove and have all these warm, fuzzy feelings, and expect that to carry into Beartown. But like all of his books, there's a heavy central theme or event and it navigates the power of working through that with those around you. Beartown and Us Against You are dynamically layered, passionate, and even though it's centered around hockey, don't let that fool you. We all love The Mighty Ducks!

20180512__RKR8344.jpg

How exciting, then, that Beartown has a sequel. The highly anticipated Us Against You, is released today (you can read the description here)! The awesome perk of being obsessed with books and apart of the Bookstagram community, is getting to read books before they're officially released. We can't thank Atria Books enough for sending us a complimentary copy! And honestly, thanks for believing in Ove and picking up all of Backman's books over the years!

After Beartown and Us Against You, you can't help but carry the story... the characters... the atmosphere with you for a long while. It's powerful. Even if you feel the story is a little slow to start, maybe some redundancy even (none of which I personally felt afflicted by), you'll find yourself wanting to laugh and cry and root for the characters you love most. There's a slow build, but a huge pay off, as with most all of Backman's work. You'll be holding your breath, wondering what happens next. You get completely sucked in and don't even realize it until you come rushing out and gasping for breath. And unlike any book that's full of struggle and redemption, the endings are never what you expect.

20180512__RKR8345.jpg

If you've never read any Fredrik Backman novels, start with A Man Called Ove and work your way through the others to Beartown, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here. I particularly loved And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. If you've read his novels, then you're in for a treat. I cannot wait to see what he writes next!